It was easier during World War II. You knew who your enemies were--Hitler, Tojo, the Red Skull. And you knew who your allies were, too--Churchill, Stalin, the Submariner. (Okay, maybe Stalin was a little dicey.) Nobody second-guessed the Invaders when we went on a commando raid behind enemy lines. If you shot Crazy Adolf in the eye, they would have held a ticker-tape parade. I came close many times, but it always turned out to be a robot or a clone or some other product of twisted Nazi super science.
Now everything's changed. (For security reasons, I can't tell you I was part of a top-secret Navy SEAL operation, but I'm sure it will all come out eventually--on WikiLeaks.) You kill Osama bin Laden, and some people--the French, of course, led by my old enemy Batroc the Leaper--question the legality. You dispose of the body at sea, and some people demand photographic proof that he's dead. Your "trusted ally" in the War on Terror, Pakistan, may or may not be a double-dealing rat. Pundits--we used to call them "blowhards" and "airbags" back in my day--immediately start arguing about who should be given credit, and what impact this will have on the next election.
Some even use it to justify torture. I've been torture so many times--at the hands of Baron Zemo, Arnim Zola, MODOK, etc.--that I've lost count. One thing I've learned is that torture hurts. The other thing I've learned is the end never justifies the means. If we can't even abide by the Geneva Convention, then we might as well toss in the towel and let the Axis run the world. By the way, George W. owes me a check. I copyrighted "Axis of Evil" back in '42.
It makes me feel old. I mean, I am old, but thanks to being frozen in a block of ice for a couple of decades and the Super Soldier Serum that courses in my veins, I don't usually feel it. Nick Fury says just roll with the punches, but it affects me in a way that Madame Hydra never did.
Where did it all go wrong--Korea, Vietnam, Iraq I, Afghanistan, Iraq II? Perhaps because these were all undeclared wars or "police actions," contravening Article I, Section 8 of the Constitution. I am nothing if not a strict constructionist--although my old sidekick the Falcon gives me heck for Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3. Maybe because he's African-American.
Or maybe it's the Information Age. The Disinformation Age, I call it. Back in my day, we just had the March of Time and FDR's fireside chats. Now there's a ravenous twenty-four hour cable news cycle that gorges uncritically on the Internet, which in turn is a vast rumor mill and opinion fryolator. In my time, a lone nut with a conspiracy theory was just that--a lone nut. Now he's Glenn Beck. He makes the Hate Monger seem like Mother Theresa. (Okay, we had Father Coughlin, but he was the exception, not the rule.) God and Country, I miss Edward R. Murrow.
Or maybe things are just more complicated now. It's all shifting shades of gray morality. There's no room for black and white good and evil, let alone a red, white and blue First Avenger.
Maybe Michael Moore is right. Maybe we've lost a little piece of our soul.
Big questions. Too big for a glorified dogface like me. I still believe in the American dream, if not the American reality. I haven't renounced my US citizenship, unlike a certain Kryptonian. (What is it about these Men of Steel? First Stalin, now Big Blue.) And I'll go wherever my country asks me to go--Libya, North Korea, Latveria. In the meantime, see my movie when it comes out later this summer. It will do an old warhorse's heart some good.